Why Marion’s Tabor Academy Isn’t Spelled Like the Taber Family Name
Working as a writer and editor in this area of Massachusetts, one of the biggest spelling confusions that I’ve noticed has to do with the Taber family, one of the more prominent and long-standing surnames on the SouthCoast.
The family name is spelled “Taber,” such as former New Bedford Mayor Isaac C. Taber, who was the namesake for the city’s Fort Taber, and Elizabeth Taber, the prominent Marion resident and benefactor for whom the town’s library is named.
However, things get to be confusing when Marion’s Tabor Academy enters the picture. This different spelling of “Tabor” throws people off, and has some people wondering if we’re not talking about two different families here.
The short answer is no.
Tabor Academy is one of the many great gifts that Elizabeth Sprague Pitcher Taber gave to her hometown, but she didn’t want it named for her.
She was born in 1791 in Marion and grew up to become a schoolteacher in town. She later married Stephen Taber and the couple settled in New Bedford. According to the Sippican Historical Society, Stephen Taber was a clockmaker who became quite wealthy by investing in whaling ships and railroads. When he died in 1862, Elizabeth Taber inherited his wealth and continued investing wisely and growing her fortune.
Taber used her wealth to build the town’s library and natural history museum, as well as donating other buildings and funds to the people of Marion. They recently erected a statue of her in Bicentennial Park.
When she founded a new school in 1876, she chose not to have it be called “Taber Academy” after her, but rather “Tabor Academy,” name for Mount Tabor in Israel (then Palestine).
The 1,886-foot mountain just 11 miles west of the Sea of Galiliee has a special significance in the Bible, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
It was the site of the Battle of Mount Tabor between the Israelites and the Canaanites, and Christians revere it as the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus, where it was said Christ became radiant in the glory of God.
Perhaps Mrs. Taber felt that was what her new school would become, a place of reverence and enlightenment – which certainly proved to be the case in the years since it was founded.